Right and Left : What exactly is being in the centre ?

I have for a long time been disengaged with politics, not just in the field of political parties and elections and what not, but generally staying away from even discussions on current controversies, in fact anything at all which which involves any notion of right or wrong, beyond the immediacy of my own life. Perhaps I am getting older, perhaps I feel that most of these issues don’t really matter to me. But beyond being cursorily interested in Lokpal bill or Osama’s death, I am quite disinclined to argue about it at all.

But recently, I have been wondering all over again, ‘Am I/Was I a right winger or left winger?’ This is a very tricky question, since notions of right and left are no longer confined to merely capitalism or socialism as an economic way of life, but at opinins you hold on everything, from multiculturalism, to tribal rights, to Kashmir to what not. And if I look at myself, I come from a family of what you could say are ‘right wingers’. Yet my education and background  has mostly associated itself with the so called left wing.

Recently, in a conversation with a friend  I told her that one of the best yoga classes I attended was conducted by RSS, and they do some very good work there. She was surprised, mainly because she felt I was a typical ‘left-winger’. How could you associate yourself with RSS, she asked (as if attending a class for six months was a life long association). But it set me thinking, I have lots of family and friends who, even if they are not involved with RSS, definitely hold views similar to the RSS. Am I not involved with them? After some very intensive reading on radical feminism, I shared a conclusion that family was just another patriarchal tool to subvert the views and interests of women. But does that stop me from being part of my own family.

And what exactly is being at the centre, the position which I would like to align myself with. In order to make up for my extended lay off from involvement in any political debates, I decided to compile a list of what it meant for me to call myself a person at the centre. All of you who also identify yourselves similarly are welcome to contribute :

1. I dont care if our national anthem song is Jana Gana Mana or Vande Mataram. Both of them make me feel good.

2. I am a healthy skeptic of the notion of the primacy of nation state. People don’t exist to serve nations, nations got created incidentally because a lot of people found it convenient to create one. ‘Mile sur mera tumhara’ fills me with pride, but finally, in my own world, I am important, and India is a country I was incidentally born in.

3. I respect individual choice. And by individual choice I mean that I understand individuals to be a product of their social contexts and I respect the choices they make or not make within these contexts.

4. I support gay rights. If my own child turned out to be gay, I will only pray that he or she has the strength to cope with a society which has still not learnt to accept them. And I will hope that my child does not hurt a partner of the opposite sex, in their confusion about their own identity or their efforts to aspire for a ‘normal’ identity.

5. I think the issue of reservations is far more complicated than is currently being argued. And millenia of social marginalization cannot be expected to be overcome in 50 years or even a century. I dont know if reservations have or have not helped the ‘backward castes’, but expecting anything at all to give results in such a short time frame is foolish.

6. I am indifferent to what USA’s strike against Osama except to feel that the violation of sovereign territory is a dangerous precedent to have set. I don’t want to compare USA’ action, against India’s supposed actions or lack of actions.

7. The national value which I hold as most important is freedom of speech. I respect Arundathi Roy’s right to say what she wants. I am proud of the fact that in India, when Binayak Sen as sentenced to prison, the mainstream media, with all due respect to objectivity also highlighted the injustice of all of it. I respect the fact that when everyone was panning the commonwealth games, I received an email forward comprising of some of the best pictures of the stadium and villages which was titled ‘Commonwealth Games : What the Media doesn’t show?’. And I respect the fact that when the games finally happened, the media appreciated whatever it had to appreciate.

This post turned out to be longer and than what I thought it would be. As I said, perhaps I was making up for my extended absence from any such discussions.  But as I wrote this, I finally and truly sensed that most of what I say or think don’t really matter to anyone. My husband, in the days before our marriage, once referred to all such discussions without an immediate impact on one’s life as ‘intellectual masturbation.’

Yes, this is precisely that, a masturbation which is healthy and necessary. I thank god for the arrival of social networks which allow this opportunity for a lot of people.

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4 thoughts on “Right and Left : What exactly is being in the centre ?

  1. Jay says:

    Nations, I believe, are a higher aggregation of ‘need for association’. I am no psychologist, but this need for association u find in almost everything there is in life. When you support a political party which is an overwhelming, a sports team which keeps winning, etc, it could be a manifestation of the above, because you are gravitating to a view or an idea which you believe is more likely to succeed, than an idea you think is better, but may not succeed (Basically the concept of a fair-weather supporter, which is 90% of the population).

    I would say your above views subscribe to more of a center-left ideology, than a centrist… Which is good, because you are liberal enough to not subscribe to the conservative opinions of the centrist, but not liberal enough to subscribe to a radical.

    Should take more time out for the “Intellectual masturbation” that you mentioned 😦

  2. divyasarma says:

    @Jay, I have had my time with radicalism before realizing that no position is a mere abstract philosophical one. We are all influenced by the people we know, what they mean to us, and what our position will do to the people we value.

  3. Sudhir R says:

    Whew, that was indeed heavy, dear. 🙂

    Man, I think, views everything happening around him from an ego-centric view-point. The first moot question he ask is “How does this impact me ?” This stems from the very primal instinct for self-preservation. So, whether it is a communal riot in distant part of the country, another scam perpetrated by our politicians, or a petrol price hike, our assessment is coloured by how it is finally gonna impact me. Hence, the response to most events is coloured by this assessment, irrespective of the political ideology that we might fashionably profess till the other day. That is why we find capitalist economies of the West practising protectionism, while the Communist China is practising unfettered capitalism, along with exploitation of the labour. All isms, and, for that matter, religious beliefs, values etc are subservient to the individual’s efforts for self-preservation, self-propogation and self-perpetuation. 🙂

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